Well, it’s finally here – my retirement date! When I made the decision two years ago to finish in August 2016 it seemed ages away, although it was nice to know the end was in sight. After 23 years, 4 months and 12 days working in schools I feel that I’ve done my bit for the education system, although I realise that some of our members will have been in the job for longer than I have.
It’s been an interesting phase in my life; I can honestly say that there has never been a day that I’ve been bored or lacking in challenge. When I started working in schools it was at a very low level: Scale 1, point 8! I had previously worked in a variety of roles including six years in the RAF (Personnel & Finance), four years as a pub landlady and four years as a self-employed driving instructor. It was during my fourth year as a driving instructor that I decided to get a ‘day job’ again; I had enjoyed the challenge and reward of teaching people to drive, but it was only meant to be an interim job to enable me to work part-time while my children were young. Computers had become the norm since I had last worked in administration, so I went to college to update my skills to equip myself for work in the ’90s. Shortly after completing my course I got a job as an accounts clerk at Fearns High School and hung up my L-plates. It was there that I got to learn the basics of education finance and systems, which stood me in good stead in applying for the role of Bursar at Colne Park High School just under two years later. Within 18 months of my appointment I had become the School Business Manager, taking on the other responsibilities that are now very much part of the job.
I consider myself to have been very fortunate to be one of the first SBMs in Lancashire, and to have had the opportunity to develop while working in a job I enjoyed so much. After seven years at Park I felt that I needed a new challenge, and moved to a new SBM role at Norden High School. I get the most satisfaction from reviewing existing systems and implementing new ones, always with a view to improving efficiency and effectiveness. I was able to make many changes in the time I worked at Norden (over eight years), and wasn’t planning to move on from there. However, when I saw the SBM post advertised at Ripley St Thomas I felt that it was right to apply.
Moving to Ripley in November 2010 was a particularly big upheaval, as it meant moving house, leaving behind my son (OK, he was 23!) and the church where I’d been a member for 23 years. The school was converting to academy status and I had a lot to learn, both in the six months prior to conversion and the following years. As is commonly known, the biggest impact from academy conversion is to the workload of the SBM. It was certainly a steep learning curve!
In May 2009, during my time at Norden, I was elected to the NASBM Board of Trustees, after one of our now LASBM members, Pam Haralambos, suggested it and subsequently nominated me. I had said in my personal statement for the election that I would like to start a local networking group, and following my appointment I arranged, with the help of NASBM, our first meeting. I had always thought it would be good to get together to share information and knowledge, particularly as the SBM role is quite a solitary one. At our first event, which was held at Clayton Park Conference Centre in September 2009, we had 45 bursars and SBMs. It was heartening to see that so many of us considered that a group would be beneficial. We had a show of hands on various suggestions (name of group, frequency and type of events) and agreed to the name ‘Lancashire Association of School Business Managers’ and to hold termly full-day conferences. We now have around 300 members and for the last two terms have held two conferences to ensure we fitted in as many members as wish to attend.
In December 2013 LASBM made the change from unincorporated association to limited company, and the committee became the directors. Since that time our membership has grown considerably, thanks in no small part to the advent of our online community, provided by Neil Limbrick of theEducationCollective.
Running LASBM has been a lot of hard work and commitment, but we do it because we know that together we are making a difference in our schools. Our committee members over the years have contributed significantly to our success and I just wanted to mention them by name: Pam Haralambos, Sharon O’Brien, Karen McCann, Jenny Goy and of course, Judy Entwistle, who is still a LASBM director.
One of the reasons I decided to retire from my job – apart from wanting more life in my work-life balance – was to enable me to focus more on LASBM, which has been taking up 15 to 20 hours a week in recent times. I look forward to doing my LASBM work during more sociable hours instead of evenings and weekends, and hopefully to developing our offer further.
On a final note I would just like to thank our sponsors, without whom our group would not be sustainable, and our members, without whom there would be no group.